Amazon’s Twitch Rife with Sexual Harassment, Predatory Grooming, Child Sexual Abuse

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Twitch, an online platform used for livestreaming, is Amazon’s attempt to capitalize on the booming popularity of the video game community. Purchased in 2014 by Amazon, Twitch boasts a massive following of creators who livestream content—mostly comprised of gamers, but can range from activities like music, painting, and even a “Just Chatting” category which features streamers broadcasting their daily lives or simply talking with viewers.

Twitch has seen a surge in popularity since the onset of the global pandemic turned much of the world to digital spaces for interaction and entertainment. In February 2020, Twitch had around 3.75 million users. Less than a year later in December 2020, Twitch reported approximately 9.24 million active users. In January 2021 alone, viewers watched 2,171,159,374 hours of content on the Twitch platform.

Despite Twitch’s strict policies on paper prohibiting nudity, exploitation, and other sexual content, as well as other harmful behavior such as harassment or violence, Twitch has a serious problem with moderating and enforcing those policies in practice for the millions of viewers and streamers on their platform. And those users tend to be young—in 2019, 41% of all Twitch users were between the ages of 16-24 years old.

Twitch is one of the leading reasons Amazon is on the Dirty Dozen List. Learn more about issues with Amazon and TAKE ACTION urging them to reject profits from sexual abuse and exploitation here.

Why doesn't @Twitch have parental controls when millions of kids are using their platform everyday? @PrimeVideo has these options—@Amazon has a responsibility to #ProtectKidsOnline with provided safety features! Click To Tweet

Predatory Grooming and Child Safety on Twitch

Like any other social media platform, Twitch requires users to be at least 13 years old before they sign up. However, the only age verification Twitch asks for during the account creation process is a birthday, an easily-bypassed age gate. In July 2020, a perfunctory investigation of Twitch revealed a number of children demonstrably under the minimum legal age, including a girl who admitted on camera she was only 11 years old. When reported to Twitch, only a handful of accounts were removed. The article points out the real issue is not the young age of users, but the way adult predators use and abuse platforms like Twitch to have unmitigated access to vulnerable children:

“The dozens of active accounts WIRED discovered on Twitch sometimes contain harrowing conversations between apparent children and strangers. In some instances, the strangers “dare” young streamers for their entertainment, including asking young girls to flip their hair or kiss their friend on camera. Other times, strangers ask for young streamers’ contact information on other apps such as Facebook-owned Instagram or Snapchat. (Twitch also has an integrated private chat feature.) They also pretend to donate money, making a chat message appear like a verified donation, or post inappropriate ASCII art in chat. The streamers themselves are by and large unsupervised.”

Despite the meteoric rise in users and the popularity of Twitch with the young demographic, Twitch has yet to develop a set of lockable parental controls for minor accounts, leaving many parents frustrated and children unprotected. The current privacy and safety features are bare minimum at worst and confusing at best. Moderation is too often left to the streamers themselves to report bad actors and suspicious behavior. And when accounts do violate policies, like when one popular streamer accidentally featured child nudity, Twitch can choose to reinstate revenue-making users, choosing profits over policies.

When a child signs up for @Twitch, nothing protects them from sexual harassment, child abuse, and predatory grooming. @Amazon: Protect millions of vulnerable children by defaulting minor accounts to the highest privacy settings! Click To Tweet

Clearly Twitch can be counted among the technological advances propelling predators’ easy access to minors. This fact is greatly concerning as sexual harassment and assault continues to become more rampant in society. Even more disconcerting is the potential role Twitch is playing in the facilitation of child abuse and exploitation.

Sexual Harassment on Twitch

As gaming becomes more popular in mainstream culture, it is imperative that Twitch and Amazon become industry leaders in how the community handles and treats sexual harassment and assault. Twitch, as one of the online hubs for gaming, represents much of this culture and community on their platform.

An estimated 65% of Twitch users are male, but women are becoming a popular demographic in gaming and by consequence, on Twitch. Some of the most popular Twitch streamers are women with millions of followers. Why then, are women still being harassed and even assaulted through Twitch on an almost daily basis?

Did you know @Twitch has a serious sexual harassment and abuse problem? CEO @eshear said the status quo needs to change... What are you doing to change @Amazon??? Click To Tweet

This problem is no stranger to Twitch, which has been noted as a haven for sexual harassment and female-targeted hate for years. In June 2020, dozens of women on Twitch came forward with stories of harassment and assault by many streamers and members of the Twitch community. Even after women shared harrowing accounts, many accused accounts remained live on Twitch. A collection of the accusations lists over 400 users as complicit in harassment, abuse, and even rape.

“The men accused of harassment and misconduct range from streamers with thousands of followers to those with hundreds of thousands of followers or more. Some of the stories involve incidents that happened on Twitch, such as men who were allegedly streaming while messaging underage fans for sexual photos. Others didn’t happen on Twitch directly but involve people in its community. Several people said they met an abuser through Twitch or that misconduct occurred at a Twitch event or an afterparty at a Twitch convention.”

Twitch CEO said this of the accusations: “The status quo needs to change. This reckoning and industry-wide actions are overdue, and this is another issue that we, and the industry, need to address to create lasting and positive change.”

We agree the status quo needs to change. What is Twitch doing to change it?

Twitch has the capability to develop and implement strong, industry-leading policies and practices that will protect its users from exploitation, abuse, and harassment. It’s not just a matter of capability, but rather responsibility on Twitch and Amazon’s part to do everything in their power to create a safe, respectful, and exploitation-free culture—on both the Twitch platform and in the gaming community as a whole.

As a parent, I am appalled at the @Twitch @Amazon decision to not provide parental controls or default safety settings for kids! Step up and #ProtectKidsOnline from abuse and exploitation. Click To Tweet

Ultimately, Twitch is responsible for setting the tone of its online environment, for monitoring that environment, and for ensuring Twitch does not become a hunting ground for predators to roam and or for abusers to profit freely. In this regard, we strongly believe Twitch is falling short of doing all that could be done to mitigate against the use of its platform in ways that foster and perpetuate sexual harms.


Twitch is one of the leading reasons Amazon is on the Dirty Dozen List. Learn more about issues with Amazon and TAKE ACTION urging them to reject profits from sexual abuse and exploitation here.

 

 

 

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NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

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The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

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